a tree too huge to see at once

I can remember only one of its exhibits, which I loved: a large wall of little doors, arrayed from floor to ceiling, each with a tiny handle. Some I could reach for myself, while my father would have to lift me to others. I must have worn him out with my desire to open and then close every single one of them. What was behind each door was a pane of glass, a window which gave onto a great – real? – tree, and each aperture revealed some different aspect of its life: nests, squirrels, spiders, stuffed birds whose glass eyes looked back with gleaming veracity. There was no way to ever see the entire tree at once, on the hundreds – were there? – of alternative perspectives the doors opened. This great curio cabinet, this museum of viewpoints, serves in my memory as a metaphor that resonates in many directions. The past itself seems to me like that tree, unseeable in its entirety, knowable only in its parts, each viewpoint yielding a different version of the story about what the whole might be. What is the world but a tree too huge to see at once, known only through the shaping character of the particular aperture through which we see?

– Mark Doty, Heaven’s Coast


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One Comment

  1. Nadine
    Posted February 5, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Oh wow, how beautiful. Both the quote and the concept! I’ve wondered what the birds and squirrels see and notice up on their perch. I will remember this.

    admin Reply:

    Right? Me too. I haven’t been able to get the image out of my head since I read the book. xox